Eleven Chicago Public Schools students, seven undergraduates, and 13 medical and dental students — all from underserved Cook County communities and who are committed to returning to work in underserved communities — are the first-ever recipients of awards from the $1 million Provident Scholarship Fund.
Funded by Provident Hospital and supported by Cook County Health, the scholarship aims to bolster diversity in health care by reducing financial barriers to higher education for some students. CPS administered the high school scholarship program, whose recipients received $10,000 each. The college students also received $10,000, and the students in medical or dental school received $20,000.
"We've set our sights on creating a more equitable health care system that provides high-quality, culturally competent care for everyone. We must ensure that our health care workforce is reflective of our communities. We know all too well the systemic and ongoing inequities that impact communities of color across Cook County," said county board President Toni Preckwinkle at the fund's Aug. 2 awards ceremony at Provident Hospital, 500 E. 51st St.
She noted that only 5% of doctors in the United States are Black and fewer than 6% are Hispanic, calling it "essential to lift up students" like the scholarship recipients so that they can lend their talents to underserved communities.
"It's the right thing to do for the nation's health care workforce and the right thing to do for our Cook County Health patients," Preckwinkle said.
One recipient, Victoria Ogunniyi, is an incoming student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Three others, Jenascia Burns, Charlicia Meeks and Kaviell Thompson, are recent graduates of South Shore High School, 7529 S. Constance Ave.
Thompson, from Bronzeville, is off to Barry University outside of Miami this fall and is interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist.
"I've always been interested in biology and medicine," she said. "It heals people. That's why I find it interesting."
Thompson is additionally interested in someday opening her own nursing agency for people in underrepresented populations. "It's very essential. As you can see, there's a lot of stuff going on," she said.
Burns, from South Chicago, wants to be an anesthesiologist. "I just like everything in the health care field," she said.
She's going to Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans and is interested in the research internships that college has.